Croydon teenager, RAYE, also known as Rachel Keen, is The BRIT School’s latest offering to the music industry.
Having begun her song-writing career at the delicate age of 10, RAYE continued on to play small charity gigs and sung at her local church. Describing music as being “all around me”, thanks to her musician parents and grandfather, at now 17 years of age, RAYE is carrying on the family tradition by releasing her first EP entitled ‘Welcome to the Winter.’ Crediting Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and Drake as some of her biggest inspirations, her debut is an exciting compilation of electro-fused R’n’B. Having being compared to Lorde, RAYE sounds older than her 17 years, and injects the depth and urgency we’ve come to know from a Rihanna ballad into every one of her tracks. With sharp insight and intelligent wit, RAYE talks us through her life, her inspirations and growing up as a young woman in the music industry.
Talk us through the story behind your new EP.
I warped and manipulated stories from my real life situations and growing up. I tend to be a bit dramatic and a lot of my songs involve an over exaggerated truth but I guess that’s how important and serious I see it in my head. When something goes wrong, it almost seems as if nothing else matters. Every song is just a small story related to an event that I have been through – something that personally impacted me enough that I wanted to write a song about it.
You grew up in a musical family, how much did your parents and grandfather effect your decision to stray into music?
It isn’t as if it was a choice to fall in love with music the way I have. I was hooked on the idea that you could put these detailed dramatic and expressive words to the movement of sound. I have always been a determined head strong child who was completely capable of making decisions and ensuring to carry them out. I saw what they did, how getting lost in music could just take you to another world away from the stresses of everyday life. I wanted that. I wanted to do that everyday for the rest of my life and I was going to work as hard as I needed to get it.
How were you discovered?
At 14, the most amazing guy called Mark found me at the high school I was at before I moved to The BRIT school. Before I knew it, at 14 I was having meetings with some incredible people to wind up where I am now, putting out my first EP.
You have quite a varied musical taste, how would you describe your own sound?
I’ve learnt growing up around so many different cultures to embrace everything musically my brain can understand. I would describe my sound to be a fusion of Electro, R&B and Pop with hooky melodies, thick basses and heavy drum lilts. I love the music I am making but the way I see my music may not be how someone else would describe it.
Can you play any instruments and will you perform any live?
I can play the piano and a bit of guitar. I used to play the cello and the flute for a while. I am also learning the bass as it is my favourite instrument. Performing live I occasionally accompany myself with piano.
Having written, recorded and co-produced the EP, how does it make you feel to receive such positive support from the likes of Clash and DIY?
The reaction and response already is so unexpected. To have these names supporting my music is incredible. Putting out music is so scary. You wonder if anyone will listen to it, if anyone will like it at all. It is such a scary thought but to have the support I have had on only my first two tracks… I am literally over the moon!
You started writing music at the age of 10 – if you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?
I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I believe that every event and every mistake occurs for a reason. I wouldn’t change the way I have grown and the mistakes I have made because, as cheesy as is it, I honestly wouldn’t be the same person without all the thousands of lessons my parents made sure I learned.
Tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind your latest single ‘Hotbox’.
Hotbox was the movie moment of me being on a night bus going through Croydon – don’t ask what I was doing ahhaa! A large group of uni students then decided to get on the bus, spark a joint and “Hotbox” the top deck. Being 15, I was slightly shocked, at the same time as finding it hilarious. It gave me the idea that we go through life passively inhaling what we are around, not having the choice of what we breathe in and furthermore having to accept it. So I made reference to some crazy detailed party where this kid just went to have a cool time but instead became part of this hotbox, a bit freaked out, begins describing all of these weird sensations and illusions.
Have you performed live yet?
I recently performed songs from the EP for the first time as a guest performer for The National Aids Trust. It was such an honour to be singing for such an amazing cause and being in front of these incredible designers such as Sean Leane and Lulu Guinness. Aids is something which is not spoken about enough in our society so being a part of an event to help raise awareness and money to do so was incredible.
‘Welcome to the Winter’ looks to document your transition into adulthood. How are you feeling about this change from girl to woman?
The change is very much occurring and has been for the last few years. It’s such a scary thing, knowing that my issues don’t become about ice-cream or falling out with friends like it used to be. There is a phrase, which I love: ‘The old know their old, but the young never know they are young.’
What are your thoughts on today’s industry norm of over sexualising young, female artists?
Over sexualising girls has become part of what people expect from society. It’s everywhere. There is nothing wrong with embracing your femininity and expressing yourself the way you feel comfortable, whether that be of a sexual nature or not. It’s a personal choice. Personally, stripping off butt naked for a music video isn’t on my bucket list even though Miley Cyrus killed it! (laughs)
Yes she did! So, musically, who would you like to collaborate with?
I’d love to bring Nina Simone back from the dead and ask to sing her backing vocals (laughs)
What have you got lined up for the rest of 2014?
Just put out more music and to see where it takes me really!
Words: Clarissa Waldron
The ‘Welcome To The Winter’ EP is available as a free download now.